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Enjoying Holidays as a Cancer Survivor

I can remember feeling exhausted and dreading the holidays when I was battling cancer. How could I possibly shop for holiday gifts and decorate as I normally did for the holiday season? I did learn how to manage and would like to share some of the strategies that I found most helpful. While I often think of December as the major holiday season, these strategies were helpful for me during the holidays and big events that happen throughout the entire year.

Strategies for getting through the holidays

Accept help

I did scale down my usual shopping and gift-giving but I also accepted help from family with decorating and wrapping. Don’t be shy about asking for help when you need it.

Reframe your usual holiday tradition

Reassess your gift-giving, I used online shopping, which helped with my lack of energy and allowed me to avoid crowds. Family members participated in a Secret Santa, which also reduced the number of gifts that I needed to purchase.

Consider modifying your usual traditions. Instead of ice skating and outside activities, I suggested baking cookies together where I could stay inside and easily rest if needed.

My priority is to focus on celebrating close relationships and spending time with my loved ones. I always keep this in mind before holidays or big events.

I usually made holiday dinners for my family. Rather than cook for the entire family, I asked each guest to bring a dish to help lighten the load. You may also consider catering the meal or even going to a restaurant.

Make time for yourself

I had to know my limits and listen to my body. I would take a nap, a walk, or even listen to relaxing music. It was necessary for me to realize that I could not complete everything at one time. I had to learn to be patient and do things in stages.

Acknowledge your feelings

I recognized that I have come a long way since my diagnosis. Each day is a gift. I try to remember the little things that make me happy. As I look at my tree ornaments, I can visualize my sons as little boys and previous celebrations.

Realize that you need not be cheerful all the time. Cancer is a miserable disease. You may still feel anger, sadness, or frustration.

Try to manage your stress by regular exercise, adequate sleep, and eat sensibly.

Avoid germs

We know that holidays are stressful, and stress can influence an already weakened immune system after cancer and chemotherapy. I avoided crowds and sick people. Talk with your physician about vaccines such as for the flu or pneumonia. Practice good basic hygiene such as handwashing or wearing a mask, and try to encourage those around you to be mindful of visiting if they are sick.

The holidays are different during and after cancer

Realize that this holiday season will be different as you are a cancer survivor. Yes, you have cancer but are trying to enjoy each moment with your loved ones.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 months ago

    Yes, the holidays can be rough, but frankly, I would not be myself if I didn’t hold those holiday traditions. Although my mom is no longer here, I’ve learned to adjust… same with myeloma. I know its in the midst but I can’t let it ruin holidays that I hold dear to my heart.

  • Carole McCue author
    2 months ago

    Yes Yolanda, these holidays hold many memories. Hopefully some of these suggestions can help.

  • Deb Wesloh moderator
    2 months ago

    Thanks for all the suggestions. Lots of good ideas to manage the holidays with cancer! The holidays were always a crazy busy time for me before cancer. Now I’ve scaled back and have had a lot of assistance. Happy Holidays to you! (Deb Wesloh BC Moderator)

  • Carole McCue author
    2 months ago

    Thank you Deb. It’s wonderful that we can learn from each other. This is a terrific community🥰

  • Ann Harper moderator
    2 months ago

    @cmccue These are wonderful suggestions. I plan to use some of them next year! Wishing you health and happines in the coming year!

  • Carole McCue author
    2 months ago

    Thank you Ann. Holidays can be rough.
    Glad you found the suggestions helpful.
    Wishing you a happy, healthy 2020🙏🏻

  • Carole McCue author
    2 months ago

    Hi Susan,
    Glad you found the suggestions helpful🤗
    Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year

  • Susan Gonsalves moderator
    2 months ago

    Thanks Carole McCue for this thoughtful article. Excellent advice. With chronic leukemia, I have to pace myself and I found that by simplifying the holiday, online shopping and quiet time, I was able to enjoy it more. Also, seeing a few people at a time on different days rather than a big crowd wasn’t as overwhelming or tiring. Happy New Year!

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